The Illusionist Reviews

Top Critic
Bob Mondello
NPR.org
October 18, 2008
The line between truth and illusion is blurred so persuasively that for a moment or two, you may even believe that a romantic costume drama could stand up to all those special-effects blockbusters in the dog days of summer.
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Nick Funnell
Time Out
February 28, 2007
With exquisite performances (Giamatti's, in particular), it leaves you thrillingly hovering, happily uncommitted to any one interpretation.
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Joshua Rothkopf
Time Out
February 3, 2007
You may be temporarily beguiled, but not fooled.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/6
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Stanley Kauffmann
The New Republic
October 26, 2006
What (director Neil) Burger and his colleagues have done is to entrance us with a richly acted, beautifully produced story.
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Steven Rea
Philadelphia Inquirer
September 1, 2006
Conjures up a world of mystery, romance and suspense.
| Original Score: 3.5/4
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Robert Denerstein
Denver Rocky Mountain News
September 1, 2006
The story may be less than credible, but the performances are mostly good, and Giamatti makes an especially strong showing.
| Original Score: B
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Michael Booth
Denver Post
September 1, 2006
A pleasant diversion serious enough to offer a little soul.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Moira MacDonald
Seattle Times
August 25, 2006
While Burger's screenplay isn't always graceful, the movie's lovely enough that you might not notice.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Rene Rodriguez
Miami Herald
August 25, 2006
Dogged by an inert, stale aura that overcomes everything and everyone in the movie.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
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Terry Lawson
Detroit Free Press
August 25, 2006
Underneath its hocus-pocus is a compelling story, very well told.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Bill Muller
Arizona Republic
August 25, 2006
Because the plot spins out in such a smooth fashion and the acting is so darned good, we're distracted from the film's flaws.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/5
Top Critic
Eleanor Ringel Gillespie
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
August 24, 2006
The Illusionist has several tricks up its sleeve, not the least of which is Edward Norton's impeccable performance as a master magician in turn-of-the-century Vienna.
Full Review | Original Score: B
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Joanne Kaufman
Wall Street Journal
August 21, 2006
The ludicrous climax, full of run-that-by-me-again flashbacks delivered at Keystone-cop speed -- oh, if only he could make that disappear.
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David Edelstein
New York Magazine/Vulture
August 21, 2006
The ending dispels a lot of the magic, but the silent-movie palette is gorgeous, and the film is worth seeing for the inspired hamming of Paul Giamatti as Vienna's chief inspector.
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Richard Roeper
Ebert & Roeper
August 21, 2006
You might not buy all the twists and turns here, but like a magician's act, it's more fun to go along with it and not to question things too much.
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Claudia Puig
USA Today
August 18, 2006
The alluring and absorbing Illusionist proves that a film need not be mindless fluff or ridiculously far-fetched to qualify as escapist entertainment.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
Top Critic
Peter Howell
Toronto Star
August 18, 2006
This terrific romantic thriller, set in 1900 Vienna, is an outstanding example of frugality in the service of art.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
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Mick LaSalle
San Francisco Chronicle
August 18, 2006
The Illusionist is a rich and elegant film, full of sly, devious characters with complicated motives.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Lisa Rose
Newark Star-Ledger
August 18, 2006
The love story is corny, the pacing is slow and some cast members are out of their element (yes, that means Biel), but the film has a cer tain cryptic charm.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
Top Critic
Lou Lumenick
New York Post
August 18, 2006
This is the kind of thoughtful, poetic, lush and old-fashioned (in the best sense of the word) film that rarely gets made anymore -- one that immerses us in a bygone world for a couple of hours.
| Original Score: 4/4
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Jack Mathews
New York Daily News
August 18, 2006
It does not dazzle.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
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Carina Chocano
Los Angeles Times
August 18, 2006
The effects are silly, and the heavy-handed and anachronistic adaptation seems as if it's brought along the signposts to allegory but then left the point at home.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/5
Top Critic
Bruce Westbrook
Houston Chronicle
August 18, 2006
For a film about magic, The Illusionist doesn't depend on tricks up its sleeve. It's more about artfulness, from handsome period details and Philip Glass' urgent score to an intriguing and vibrant plot.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
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Chris Vognar
Dallas Morning News
August 18, 2006
The Illusionist works magic and illusion with romantic panache.
Full Review | Original Score: A-
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Ty Burr
Boston Globe
August 18, 2006
The pleasure of The Illusionist lies in its luxuriant belief in old-fashioned verities like character and storytelling; it's as thin as a sheet of marbled endpaper and as cleanly crafted.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Stephanie Zacharek
Salon.com
August 18, 2006
I have vague recollections of some of the actors' trying too hard, and of places where the story dragged like a tired peacock's tail. But ultimately, by God, I succumbed to the picture's faux-laudanum haze.
Top Critic
Jonathan Rosenbaum
Chicago Reader
August 18, 2006
A lush piece of romanticism -- a tale of enchantment set in turn-of-the-century Vienna.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
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Dana Stevens
Slate
August 17, 2006
It's an exquisitely crafted period picture that keeps promising more and more as it goes along -- smarter ideas, richer themes, spookier plot twists -- and keeps delivering on every promise, right up until the rug-pulling and overly hasty final sequence.
Top Critic
Peter Rainer
Christian Science Monitor
August 17, 2006
Steven Millhauser's short story about a stage magician in turn-of-the-20th-century Vienna has been expanded by writer-director Neil Burger into an overly stately affair that often substitutes production values for imagination.
Full Review | Original Score: B-
Top Critic
Stephen Holden
New York Times
August 17, 2006
Neil Burger's screen adaptation of a short story by Steven Millhauser gives Edward Norton a role that perfectly fits his disturbing inscrutability.
| Original Score: 4/5
Top Critic
Michael Phillips
Chicago Tribune
August 17, 2006
Crisply acted by a cast murmuring, in low tones, about truth and illusion, The Illusionist overcomes the major obstacle in films (and there haven't been many) about the world of stage magicians.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
Top Critic
Ann Hornaday
Washington Post
August 17, 2006
The Illusionist is that rarity in the dog days of summer, a movie made for grown-ups, which is what makes it that much more disappointing.
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Richard Corliss
TIME Magazine
August 17, 2006
By the end, the canniest viewers may not be fooled, but -- and you can believe this -- they may be mesmerized.
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Scott Foundas
L.A. Weekly
August 17, 2006
The movie is leaden and self-serious, with an unusually hollow performance from Norton, who's not for a moment convincing as a man of raging passion. Far better is Paul Giamatti.
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Gene Seymour
Newsday
August 17, 2006
The high gloss doesn't intrude on the narrative cunning -- or, for that matter, the foxy grandeur of the performances.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
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Scott Tobias
AV Club
August 17, 2006
The results are reasonably clever and impeccably executed, but one of these days, Burger is going to have to pull more from his hat than just the rabbit.
Full Review | Original Score: C+
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David Germain
Associated Press
August 16, 2006
Burger crafts a movie with a sumptuous visual palette but little heart, the characters detached and cold-blooded.
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Bill Gallo
Village Voice
August 15, 2006
These resolutely old-fashioned elements might not work at all in a less well-crafted movie. But this entertaining tale of wizardry and lost love vaporizes even our most serious doubts.
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James Berardinelli
ReelViews
August 15, 2006
The movie celebrates magic in its many forms while testifying to the enduring power of love.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Lisa Schwarzbaum
Entertainment Weekly
August 9, 2006
Screenwriter-director Neil Burger capitalizes on Norton's strengths quite well.
Full Review | Original Score: B+
Top Critic
Peter Travers
Rolling Stone
August 4, 2006
The Illusionist curls around you like a smoke ring, which only enhances its mysterious allure.
| Original Score: 3/4
Top Critic
Rex Reed
New York Observer
August 3, 2006
A richly textured and very entertaining movie that actually knows the value of telling a good story with skill, precision and excitement.
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James Greenberg
Hollywood Reporter
February 1, 2006
The Illusionist is like a dreamscape existing between sleep and consciousness, the old world and the new.
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Todd McCarthy
Variety
January 24, 2006
A bizarre story of intrigue, magic and murder in turn-of-the-century Vienna casts a considerable spell.